kathryn o’brien Posts

14 New Activities for Your Next Summer Road Trip

Tyndale Kids

van-in-parking-lotThis summer, we asked the Tyndale Kids Team about their favorite summer road-trip activities. These fabulous ideas are sure to result in endless hours of road-tripping fun, this summer and beyond. Enjoy!


From Teri McKinley (Coauthor of Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? and Does God Take Naps?):

  • Pictionary Alphabet Game. While in the car, give each passenger some paper and a pencil. As you travel, draw pictures of things you see that start with each letter of the alphabet. For example, for the letter A, draw an armadillo you see on the side of the road; for B, draw a bumper sticker you see on the back of a car. The first person to draw pictures for all twenty-six letters of the alphabet wins! Consider giving the winner a prize, such as choosing where you will eat or picking a treat at the gas station.coloring-drawing-markers-activities

From Kathryn O’Brien (Author of the “My First Bible Memory” board books):

  • Endless Coloring. Let your kids draw and color to their hearts’ content without ever running out of paper! Here’s how: Check the dollar store for an eight-by-ten-inch picture frame. Cut a piece of white construction paper to size, slip it into the photo slot, and replace the back of the frame. Buy a package of dry-erase markers, bring along an old sock for an eraser, and voila! You have a do-it-yourself mini-whiteboard. The easy wipe-off boards can also be used for games like Tic-Tac-Toe, Hangman, Pictionary, or Dots and Boxes.

From Sarah Jean Collins (Author of God Made the World ):

  • Person, Place, or Thing. One game we always played as a family while growing up was Person, Place, or Thing. It’s basically the same as Twenty Questions, but without the limit on the number of questions. One person picks something that is either a person, place, or thing, and everyone guesses what it is by asking yes or no questions. When we play this game with our four-year-old daughter, we let her be on a team with either me or her dad. It’s a simple game, but it can get competitive; and our daughter’s contributions are always entertaining.

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From Linda Howard, Associate Publisher for Tyndale Kids:

  • Family Karaoke. When my daughter was young and our family took road trips together, we would create a playlist of favorite songs to listen to while we were on the road. We’d sing together at the top of our lungs and make up silly choreography to go along with the lyrics. My husband, my daughter, and I still talk about the fun we had while traveling together!
  • Scattergories for Little People. Another game that my grandkids love to play on long road trips resembles the game of Scattergories. Someone in the car picks a letter of the alphabet, and the whole car then works together to come up with as many words as they can that begin with that letter. You’d be amazed at the hours of entertainment this simple game provides for little ones!

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From Jesse Doogan, Tyndale Kids Acquisitions Editor:

  • Can’t Talk until You See. I was in my midtwenties before I realized that not everyone plays Can’t Talk until You See. It’s basically I Spy, but it has the added benefit of competitive quietness. The person who is “it” chooses an object, such as a red mailbox, and everyone else has to find that object. While the players are searching, no one is allowed to talk—not even the person who is “it.” (This rule was added as soon as we kids were old enough to figure out loopholes! Around that same time, we also learned that mom is always allowed to talk and cannot lose the game.) When one of the searchers finds the item, they yell “there it is!” That person becomes “it” and chooses the next object.

From Tim Wolf, Tyndale Kids Buyer:

  • The Name Game. This road-trip game is perfect for your slightly older travelers. To start the game, decide on a theme for the first round, such as “Movie Titles.” The first player comes up with a word or phrase that fits that theme. The second player must use the last letter of the first player’s word or phrase as the starting letter in their own response. Keep the list going until a player is stumped by a specific letter.

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From Emily Bonga, Publishing and Marketing Coordinator:

  • The State License Plate Game. Work together as a family to find as many different state license plates as possible throughout your trip. Each time you find a new one, brainstorm the different things you know about that state. For example, identify the state’s major cities, popular sports teams, climate, etc. If anyone in the car has visited the state, invite that person to share favorite memories from their trip.

From Kristi Gravemann, Tyndale Kids Marketing Manager:

  • The Shared Story Game. One person in the car starts by telling a story. It can be something as simple as a sentence or two, just to get the story going. Then, another passenger pipes in, providing an additional sentence or so to continue the narrative. Keep alternating, with each person adding a bit to the story when it’s their turn. This game is a fun way to practice teamwork and to use imagination at the same time!
  • The Imagination Game. My daughters love to look around at our fellow travelers and imagine where they are going. These can be people in an overhead airplane or driving in the next lane on the highway. Give each traveler a backstory, answering questions such as, Where are they coming from? and Where are they headed? This game is a fun way to spark creativity in your kids during a long drive.

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From Crystal Bowman (Coauthor of Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? and Does God Take Naps?):

  • ABC Bible Characters. For every letter of the alphabet, think of as many names as possible from the Bible. For example, A: Adam, Abel, Aaron, Abigail, Anna. Write the names on a piece of paper and see which letter has the most names. Try to do this without using your Bible, but some letters might be challenging, so if you need a little help, open it up and see what you can find.

Krom Kelsey O’Kelley, Tyndale Kids Production Assistant:

  • Road Trip Trivia. When my family went on road trips, we took along a pack of United States Trivia cards. We left the game board behind and brought only the cards and a pad of paper. The paper was used to keep track of points for correctly answered questions. I highly recommend bringing cards from your favorite trivia game on your next road trip.

From Sarah Rubio, Tyndale Kids Editor:

  • The “I’m Going on a Trip” Alphabet Game. One game that I loved growing up was the “I’m Going on a Trip” alphabet game. The first person says, “I’m going on a trip, and I’m bringing [something that starts with the letter A].” The next person repeats the first person’s item and adds something that starts with the letter B. This continues until the last person is required to repeat the entire alphabet of items.
  • I also love audiobooks for road trips! We’ve listened to some Focus on the Family Radio Theater albums as a family, such as this Ultimate Road Trip Family Vacation Collection, which I definitely recommend.

 


Here’s to an eventful, fun-filled family road trip this summer!
Did you try out any of these road-trip ideas? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Drop us a comment below and let us know about your experience.


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5 Ways to Cultivate Grateful Hearts That Last by Kathryn O’Brien

Tyndale Kids

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This article originally associated gratitude with Thanksgiving. Now after the holiday, we encourage you to read it with Christmas in mind. We can be grateful every day of the year!

Ah, the wonder of fall. Crunchy leaves. Pumpkin pie. All of those forgotten fuzzy socks and flannel jammies pulled from the bottoms of dresser drawers. And most glorious of all, our kids, our busy, bustling, blessed kids are asked to turn their hearts and minds to living with thanksgiving.

At least for a few days. All over America, at this time of year, children are presented with activities, assignments, and lessons that center around gratitude. As they learn about the hardships of colonial life, they discover the joy of simple things, such as enough food and a warm bed. They make lists of blessings for which to be grateful. They read books about Plymouth Rock and make turkeys out of clay. They wear Pilgrim hats and reenact friendship feasts, remembering those who faced dire circumstances yet continued to praise God for His provision.

All too quickly, though, the big day comes and goes; and along with our harvest décor, the Thanksgiving focus of our nation, community, and family is put away for another year. To help the thanks keep on giving throughout the year, try these simple tips and activities with kids of any age.

Point out blessings. Invest in a spinning globe or world map. On the first day of every month, let your children take turns spinning the globe or pointing to a place on the map. Then do some research together on that nation or city. What are the people, customs, and culture like? What issues do they face? How can we pray for them? In what ways could we help? Allow your kids to see the many ways they are blessed by being interested in the needs of others.

Model a life of thanks. Be a daily reminder to your children to live gratefully, by living gratefully! At the dinner table, share blessings from the day. Start bedtime prayers with a list of gifts from God. Get in the habit of saying thank you to your kids, your spouse, your friends, and complete strangers for kindnesses big and small. Write thank you notes or e-mails with your children. Bring flowers or treats to neighbors, teachers, coaches, or friends—just to say thanks!

Frame the discussion. Buy or choose a special frame, and set it in a place of honor in your home. Fill the frame with the photo of a person, place, or event that your family loves and appreciates. If there isn’t a photograph readily available, spend some time with your kids drawing and coloring it yourselves! Change the picture on a regular basis, by the month, holiday, or season; and use the frame as a reminder to give thanks for that person or place in their lives.

Give thanks write now. Purchase a journal, or even make one from blank paper bound with pretty ribbon. Title the book, We Give Thanks, and every year, ask family members to jot down the things for which they are most thankful. Let even the smallest children participate by dictating their words to an adult or older sibling. Store the journal with your autumn linens so that each year you can bring out the book, reminiscing about past blessings and adding new blessings for generations to come!

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Create a plateful of grateful. Buy a uniquely colored dinner plate (or decorate an old plate with safe markers), and add it to your set of dishes. Let different family members use the special plate at least once a week. During mealtime, give the honoree encouragement by sharing the ways in which they are a blessing to those around them. Mention their God-given qualities, abilities, and talents that you are most thankful for, and say a special prayer of praise for them.

Hopefully, this Thanksgiving—as the last of the cranberry sauce is gobbled up and the cornucopia is tucked away—we will hang onto gratitude for God’s goodness in our lives . . . and our children’s thankful hearts will remain.


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Looking for books that encourage little ones to live with a grateful heart? Check out Give Thanks by Kathryn O’Brien, part of the Sit for a Bit series from Tyndale.


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Kathryn O’Brien writes books for kids and has a heart for moms. She’s published five children’s picture books, including her latest series (Sit for a Bit, Tyndale) and serves as a contributor for several publications. When she’s not writing or enjoying her day job as a Christian school administrator, Kathryn can usually be found texting her three grown children, hanging on the front porch with her husband, or hiking the canyons near her home in Southern California. To learn more about Kathryn, visit her at her website, www.kathobrien.com.


For more tips from Kathryn O’Brien on how to help your kids think about thankfulness, check out this post!

8 Educational Books to Read with Your Preschooler

Tyndale Kids

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Children who are preschool-age are curious and tend to ask a lot of questions. Help your preschooler learn and grow this fall with these eight educational books that cover a variety of topics from questions about God to manners—and everything in between!


For your future scientist . . .

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Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley

Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? addresses common children’s questions about all things nature. Children learn about starfish, elephants, bears, stars, earthworms, eagles, trees, and heaven, while absorbing the underlying themes of God’s love and grace and a parent’s love for a child. Corresponding to the “Science” portion of STEM curriculum standards, this book is one you won’t want to miss for your inquisitive preschooler!


For learning memory verses together . . .

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Be Still, Give Thanks, and I Can by Kathryn O’Brien

These adorable books by author Kathryn O’Brian turn Bible memorization from a duty to a delight! These books will help your child memorize, understand, and absorb passages as the author presents each powerful verse one word at a time. Be Still, Give Thanks, and I Can build a meaningful connection between God’s Word and a child’s life experiences, laying a foundation for a love and comprehension of Scripture.


For your little theologian . . .

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Does God Take Naps? by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley

This book offers satisfying answers to many questions about God that your preschooler may have—such as “How can I talk to God?” or “How old is God?” —while also showing parents how they can respond to their child’s questions with patience and love. For your little one with many theology-based questions, this book will not disappoint!


For your explorer . . .

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Where Does Love Hide? by Mary Manz Simon

In Where Does Love Hide? children are given the opportunity to see love in action. In addition to the fun, lift-a-flap feature, each page includes a memory verse and an example of a way your child can share God’s love. This book is a great place for your preschooler to start exploring what love looks like!


For developing manners and character . . .

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I Can Be Kind by Amie Carlson

Scripture teaches us to love our neighbors by treating them with kindness and respect. I Can Be Kind is a fun, creative way to teach your child polite behavior in a society where rudeness is often the status quo. With lift-the-flap interaction on every page, I Can Be Kind is a great resource for developing kindness and manners in your child!

 

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The Character Builder’s Bible by Agnes de Bezenac and Salem de Bezenac

The Character Builder’s Bible highlights core character traits that the Bible teaches, and it suggests fun, practical ways to live out these truths so that little minds can understand. Featuring sixty Bible stories with colorful illustrations, definitions, and memory verses, The Character Builder’s Bible will show your little ones that God’s Word is relevant to their lives and will help you instill biblical character in their hearts.


Find these titles and more on Tyndale.com!


5 Reliable Reading Strategies For Your Kids

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Getting your kids to read can be a challenge these days with all the distractions! Wondering what your approach should be? Join us as author Kathryn O’Brien discusses some tried and true reading strategies for kids!


Long before Dr. Seuss put a cat in a hat or invited kids to hop on Pop, parents have been concerned with improving their children’s reading skills.

Every decade or so, a new idea in education sweeps the nation. During the 1950’s, Dick and Jane ushered in the “Look and Say” approach, which was replaced ten years later with direct phonics instruction. Whole-language dominated the 1980’s, prompting a sharp return to phonics toward the end of the millennium. Currently, of course, the hot-button issue is deeper-thinking Common Core State Standards. With each trendy philosophy, teachers either cheer or complain. Administrators defend or dismiss. Politicians advocate or denounce. And parents are left wondering whether their kids will be helped or hindered by the latest and greatest approach.

As a former primary teacher and current Director of Instruction in a Christian elementary school, I regularly encourage parents and teachers to disregard the most recent frenzy and opt for tried and true, common sense strategies when it comes to enriching reading aptitude. Here are a few suggestions to get started.


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#1 Fun Counts– It’s a simple formula: kids who enjoy reading equals kids who become better readers. Investing time to find books that are tailored to fit your child’s interests, hobbies, curiosities and funny bones, will result in improved reading. A National Research Council study from a few years back maintains that one major cause of low reading ability is a lack of motivation (Snow et al., 1998). So if your child just can’t wait to dive into a comic book, let her! If your kid doesn’t want to put down a book about ogres, don’t force him to. From lizards to Legos, baseball to ballet, find books that excite, inspire and enthuse your child’s unique personality.

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#2 Get’em Hooked– Unfortunately, one book won’t last forever. A major key to fueling the reading fire is finding a series that makes your child want more. I recommend trying The Imagination Station series by Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker to share God’s truths in a fun and creative way. For an exciting historical context, give Bible KidVentures Stories a try. For kids who loves all things silly, check out Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants with 70 million copies sold or the Bad Kitty series by Nick Bruel. Just like you and me, finding a favorite series is a surefire way to keep the pages turning.

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#3 Let’s Get Together – Millions of adults join book clubs each year for one simple reason; sharing a great story makes the experience even better. So why not try book club at home? Set aside time each week to read a book together. Choose a title your child enjoys and purchase your own copy. Partner-read by alternating pages. Struggling readers can take turns with paragraphs or even sentences. Kids benefit greatly from hearing one-on-one modeling of correct pacing, expression, tone and pronunciation of new vocabulary.

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#4 No Question About It– Whether your child is partner-reading or reading independently, be sure to stop frequently for inquiries. Start with the basics: who, where, when, what? But don’t quit there. Delve deeper by asking the biggies: how and why. Questions that start with how and why introduce children to a more sophisticated set of comprehension skills (inference, prediction, categorization) and important critical thinking relationships between ideas (compare and contrast, cause and effect). Don’t allow kids to simply guess and move on; invite them to become Reading Detectives by searching for evidence in the text that supports their answers.

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#5 See the Big Picture– As your child reads, ask him to visualize the story in his mind. Encourage her to describe the details she sees. Keep crayons and markers on hand to illustrate, making a valuable concrete image. Graphic organizers, like “Word Webs,” are another great way to create a solid picture of written words. Simply write the main idea or main character from a story in the middle of a page, then surround it with related details. “Story Maps” make good graphic tools as well; just sketch the main events of a story in the sequence in which they occur. Any way that children are able to diagram, chart, frame, illustrate, or graph a text is a reliable way to ensure comprehension.


If these strategies feel a bit overwhelming, choose one and give it a shot. Add more activities as you feel comfortable. Don’t get bogged down by pressure from politicians, academia or the PTA; simply share with your children the reading strategies that have stood the test of time.


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Kathryn O’Brien writes books for kids and has a heart for moms. She’s published several children’s picture books, including her most recent series, My First Bible Memory, and serves as a contributor for several publications. When she’s not writing or enjoying her day job as a Christian School administrator, Kathryn can usually be found texting her three grown children, hanging on the front porch with her husband, or hiking the canyons near her home in Southern California.


Need more suggestions on books to get your child in the habit of reading? Check out these titles!

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A Fresh Look at Rainy Day Fun by Kathryn O’Brien

Tyndale Kids

Springtime is all about being outside, but every so often those “April showers” dampen our outdoor fun. When plans outside are scattered by a sudden storm, don’t let a few showers rain on your parade. Be prepared with these age-old, indoor ideas with a fresh twist.


Send it! Pulling out the arts and crafts box passes the time nicely, but how about giving your masterpiece a purpose? Make a list of people that may like to receive a special gift. Grandparents or cousins that live far away? A neighbor who has been recently ill? A friend with a broken arm or a cold?  Use your gray day to brighten someone else’s by drawing, coloring, crafting or painting a personalized work of art.  In this age of technology, hand-made surprises found in a mailbox are extra appreciated. (This is also a good time to remind kids how to address an “old-fashioned” envelope and use a stamp!)

board-games-rainy-day-activityMake it! Board games like Candy Land and Shoots and Ladders are great classics to have on hand, but a kid-created board doubles the fun. Sketch a curvy, zig-zag path onto poster board. Next, divide the path into squares. Fill each square with rewards (ie: You found a pretty shell at the beach; move ahead three spaces) and pitfalls (ie: You forgot to bring the tent on our camping trip; move back a space). Personalize the squares by citing specific places your family loves to visit during the summer.  Use markers and crayons to decorate, dice to move ahead, buttons for tokens, and you’re on your way!

popcornWatch it! Who doesn’t love a bowl of popcorn, a comfy couch and a good movie on a drizzly day? But have you thought of starring in that movie yourself? Pick a family favorite and choose some well-known scenes. Dress up as characters, gather props, practice saying lines, and take turns as actors, directors and videographers (even preschoolers can push “record” on Mom’s ipad or smartphone). For those with extra imagination, rewrite a scene altogether or think of a different ending to really make it your own production. Don’t forget to make that popcorn, as you’ll need it for the viewing party when filming wraps.

Read it! Making a cozy space with blankets and books is a great idea rain or shine, but why not publish your own book? Gather some computer paper and staple down the left hand side. Think of a great summer trip or outing your family has taken (or would like to take) and write about it from beginning to end. Decorate the cover with a title and the author’s (your) name. Inside, use the bottom half of each page for text, the upper half for illustrations. Be sure to describe the setting and all of the characters by adding lots of details. And don’t forget an “About the Author” page at the end telling readers all about you.

puzzle-piecesCreate it! Everybody loves puzzles, but have you ever designed your own? Use a sheet of plain white paper (preferably heavy cardstock) to create a colorful picture. Be sure to cover the entire page; don’t leave any spaces blank. Turn the paper over and draw squiggly lines from top to bottom and left to right, dividing the sheet into small sections. Then cut on the lines. Place the puzzle pieces into an envelope and give to a friend or sibling, or try putting it back together on your own. Optional: glue the pieces onto a colored sheet of construction paper as the puzzle is reconstructed, for a cool mosaic piece of art.

making-a-listLearn it! Action games like Pictionary and charades are wonderful pastimes, but why not throw in a little academics?  First, make a list of historical characters or Bible heroes. As you make your list, take time to discuss the famous figures. Who were they? What did they do? When did they live? What is important about them? Use a children’s Bible or a safe internet site to gather more information if needed. Cut up the list and gather names into a hat or bowl. Take turns choosing and acting out (or drawing) clues. Valuable information is shared and learning is reinforced as answers are eagerly discovered.


So here’s wishing your family fair skies ahead, but if gray clouds threaten to bring on the blues, put some of these ideas into action and enjoy a cheery day.


Kathryn O’Brien is the author of the My First Bible Memory Book series, now available in board book format! See more from Kathryn on her website, www.kathobrien.com.


For some additional reading, check out these Tyndale Kids titles with rainy days of their own!

Jonah and the Fish by Dandi Daley Mackall

Jonah and the Fish by Dandi Daley Mackall

A Patch on the Peak of Ararat by Gary Bower

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The Story Travelers Bible by Tracey Madder (Specifically, “An Unusual Way to Travel by Sea”, starting on page 231)